If you haven't heard of the Paleo Diet, you might think it refers to grilled sabertooth tiger and Fred Flintstone-sized brontosaurus ribs. Actually, that's not far off.
The Paleo Diet is based on the concept of eating food "to which we are genetically adapted," according to the diet company's website. The diet consists mainly of fish, meat, eggs, vegetables, roots and nuts ... things our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have no problem obtaining. There are several items, staples in most American diets, not included in the Paleo Diet: wheat and other grains, sugar, dairy, legumes, and potatoes, just to name a few.
This may not be appealing to many folks, but there are a lot of people making it work — and while we've not thoroughly investigated the science behind it (and have not yet committed to this lifestyle ourselves ... primarily because it cuts out doughnuts), we will admit that several of the folks we know who have "gone paleo" are some of the most fit individuals we've met.
The aptly named Beast, a tiny black and red food trailer that has recently hit the streets of Little Rock, is focused on bringing paleo-friendly foods to a growing throng of dieters. And by the looks of it, butcher Gwen Jones and chef Michael Qandah have a hit on their hands, with Beast often selling out of food before the day is through.
You'll often find the Beast parked near gyms and fitness centers — capitalizing on the fact that most paleo-people are also committed to fitness, many being part of the CrossFit phenomenon. Being neither paleo nor a CrossFit junkie, we were naturally a little skeptical about how much we'd enjoy their food. But the menu seemed quite well thought out, using local producers and growers, so we determined to hunt down the Beast and sample its wares.
We first found it on a Saturday morning at the Hillcrest Farmers Market serving breakfast. Several menu items caught our eye, but we decided on the "Primal Biscuits and Gravy" and another item called the "3, 2, 1," which featured three slices of bacon, two scrambled eggs and one biscuit.
First, the biscuits and gravy ($6). You can imagine that making biscuits without flour is a challenge. Beast's biscuits use a sort of root vegetable mixture that's been manipulated to turn out a product that appears surprisingly similar to a gluten-heavy, grain-based biscuit. It's got some definite textural differences, however, as the paleo-friendly biscuits came out a bit drier and denser than most of their non-paleo counterparts. The scratch-made gravy, however, was excellent — creamy, rich and full of slightly spicy chunks of locally made breakfast sausage. It was a real delight. We ordered it with a couple of farm-raised scrambled eggs, which were perfectly light and well prepared. It was a solid item, which we'd readily eat again if given the chance.
The "3, 2, 1" ($7) came next. This featured the same biscuits (minus gravy) and eggs, but this time paired with house-cured, thick-cut bacon. This bacon is not to be overlooked. It was some fantastic pig. Beast uses Freckle Face Farm products, curing and preparing the bacon itself. The quality and attention given to the food really shows here. It's crispy, salty, thick and flavorful — you can't ask for much more in your bacon.
A final note on breakfast: We have not sampled them yet, but we're hearing wonderful things about the Beast's chorizo and cheddar breakfast tacos ($7).
Our next encounter with Beast came at Westover Wednesday's monthly food truck gathering (at Westover Hills Methodist Church). We started with the Hickory Link ($10), one housemade sausage on top of dijon-roasted carrots and a bacon-Caesar salad. The link was made of grassfed beef filled with hickory-smoked bacon ends and bits of jalapeño-cheddar. It was wonderful — full of flavor, tender and not too greasy. Probably the best bite we had all night. The accompanying carrots were also perfectly cooked and tasty; the salad was simple, but delightful.
Next came the Seven-Spice Cutlets ($10) — a dish composed of pasture-raised pork brined and seasoned with Beast's "secret-spice" blend. The spice blend was good — we thought we detected a bit of cumin or cinnamon — but maybe a little overused, making the pork a bit too salty. We found the seasoning tempered and more enjoyable when paired with the simply dressed salad provided with the pork — an organic spring mix with feta, roasted garlic and herb vinaigrette.
One thing has been made clear to us after a few visits to Beast — it may be "paleo-friendly" but the food should certainly not be restricted to those on the Paleo Diet. This food is meant for everyone to experience and enjoy.
Locations vary, follow at facebook.com/BeastLR or on Twitter @beastfoodtruck
As the name implies, Beast is a protein-heavy operation, but it often serves something for vegetarians, as well, such as curried greens with organic kale stewed in coconut milk and madras curry. But make no mistake, the meat here is masterfully done. Each menu is composed of locally sourced products, everything from Kent Walker cheese to Cedar Rock Acres farm-raised eggs.
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